How Did Greed Become Normal in Business?

What does greed and aggression get you? Someone asked me that question recently. Without a moment’s thought I blurted out: Vladimir Putin invading Ukraine.

The truth is that greed and aggression exist in our everyday business practices. It is becoming more commonplace than you may think. Have you ever heard someone say or have you felt this way? They owe me more for all the work I put in while they were doing nothing. I am going after them!

I have experienced some businesses who simply lie and invent fictitious details, just to lower a previously agreed to sale price. They got their pit bull involved. In my case, they didn’t win, and we expended a lot of energy on being legally gaslighted.

Here is a true story about a smart, savvy business owner, a client of mine, who found herself being encouraged to engage in an aggressive act of business and made to think it’s okay because it is business. Here is her story.

"Talk to my accountant. He's a pit bull!"

This suggestion cut through her heart and spun her into complete confusion. She was well on her way to dissolving a one-sided relationship with a belligerent, absent partner when a friend offered her some help. She was hours away from sole ownership of the business.

Whoa! She owes you a lot more. You should NOT be buying her out. Go talk to my accountant. He is a pit bull”.

The friend was well intentioned. He was taking an active stand of support for my client. Why did those four little words, “he’s a pit bull” cause her so much angst? She knew he was right. She knew she had been taken advantage of by her former business partner. She was angry. Why shouldn’t she turn the table and push back on the crappy partner?

After a year of working non-stop in the food industry, she had built a thriving, innovative, super tasty menu her customers loved on her own and wanted more. The weight on her shoulder was a partner who forgot to show up. Didn’t meet any of the pre-arranged agreements to pay bills, buy groceries and work the store. In fact, the partner left the country and left my client to handle everything on her own. She knew the situation was not sustainable.

When you are a naturally happy person and have to face down a belligerent person on the other side of the negotiating table, it’s not much fun. With the calm and presence of a saint, she artfully had negotiated her way to a settlement. With just a few more hours to go to complete this process and be free, she started to doubt herself.

“Grow a backbone. Get what you deserve,” were the other suggestions her friend made. She began to doubt herself. Was she really a competent businesswoman if she didn’t go after more? What will my friend think of me if I back down? Will others judge me as a pushover?  She could still go to war, get the accountant involved, and bring in the lawyers. She would win. She would put a little more cash into her till. But at what cost?

She doubted going to war would make her feel better. Energy and resources expended on accountants, lawyers, paperwork, and documents were counterproductive to further growing her business. After a great amount of soul-searching, a call or two to her coach, and conversations with her trusted advisors, she made her decision: Stay the course. Get out of the business relationship. Focus her attention on her customers, staff, and the creative enjoyment she receives in creating innovative menus from local products for her community. She had already travelled down a difficult negotiation path without flinching. Time to just move on.

These types of aggressive business practices are widely accepted ways of doing business. You have a deal, but you can change it at the last minute. You can take more from the other person, so you should do it. It’s just business. My question is, how did greed become normal? When did a person’s honest word start being challenged as not good business?

I predict more business will come her way than she gave up. She will expend less energy on soul-sucking activities. She will grow a robust business. She is going beyond the story about how business operates. She trusts her instincts and says no to greed and aggression that pops up in her everyday life.

Here are the questions we should ask in the face of such advice: What is the cost of not trusting yourself and the positive life forces? How can I live with myself if this is what I’m doing?

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